Friday, January 22, 2021





"This is not my idea of laid back," says Dalkin, sprawled in a dentist's chair beneath a beam of bright white light. "I think I got a cavity, doc."

"Let's take a look."  Dr. Gurliacci picks and probes.

"Oww!  Fuck-nuts!"

"It's a deep one," says the dentist.  "I'm going to need an x-ray to see what's going on."

Yeah, right.  Crank up the tab.

A technician does her thing. 

Ten minutes later Gurliacci returns.  "Hmmm.  As I thought.  You see this mass here?"

Dalkin looks at the black and white x-ray plate.  "I see a tooth in various grays."

"That's right," says Dr. Gurliacci.  "Various grays mean that decay has reached the nerve.  You're probably going to need a root canal."

"You mean I get to be tortured and pay actual fucking cash—blow me—for  the privilege?"

"Don't you have insurance?"  Gurliacci is probing again.

"You kidding?"  Dalkin gagged.  "I work for myself, which, in Blue Cross-speak, means:  You're screwed, buster."

"I can refer you to a root canal specialist," says Gurliacci.

"You can't do it yourself?" 

Anyone who calls themselves specialist charges double.

"Sometimes.  But not this tooth.  It's a large molar."

"Then just yank the sucker and I’ll shove it under my pillow."

Gurliacci shakes his head.  "Extractions cause other problems.  Your bite.  Shifting."

"What if I don't do anything?"

"It'll get worse," says Gurliacci.  "I've seen hardened men reduced to tears.  If the pus from an abscess gets into the jawbone..." he shakes his head.  "It's not pretty."






Jeff Dalkin does not like not pretty.  Isn't that why he moved to Santa Barbara?  The problem is, nobody in this neighborhood has any problems. Because problems had been replaced by metaphysical issues. 

The best Dalkin could do—after four months of letting it be known that he could investigate anything, anywhere, anyhow—the best he could do was Arthur Toady.  And what did Art Toady, the Howard Hughes of toys, want him to do? 

Find Satan. 

Yeah, right—just another missing person.  

And it sure didn't seem like old Beelzebub was hanging on the American Riviera, a blessed coastline of Pacific waves, charming vistas, ideal climate.  Not to mention abundance.  

Real problems were so nonexistent, the populace had evolved to imaginary ones and had become addicted to plastic surgeons, therapists, faith healers and channels.           

Dalkin has a thought:  Maybe Satan is hanging on Butterfly Beach, plotting a major earthquake and tsunami? 

His next thought is to call…


This is Harvey Kimbach, legendary spook with the finest spy-net around.

"You're back from California already?"

Negative," says Dalkin.  "I'm finished with Washington—wanking willies."

"And I see California hasn't cured your Tourette’s?"

"Who says I'm looking for a cure," snaps Dalkin.  "It's everyone else's problem, not mine.  Listen, I got a question:  Know where I can find Satan?"

"Used to be Beirut," says Kimbach.  "He got bored.  Last I heard, Baghdad, though you might try Pyongyang."

"I'm not going to Pyongyang—petrified pukes!" Dalkin mutters.  "Can you get a file on him?"

"On Satan?  Have you lost your mind out there? Wouldn't surprise me.  We don't do X-files."

"Look, I finally found a rich client—dumb mutherfuck.  I can't help if the issues in California are different.  I'm just trying to determine if CIA—anal ass-wipes—ever did a study on Satan."

"Maybe if Pat Robertson had been elected president," says Kimbach.  "But he wasn't, thank God.  If you're serious, call him.  Or one of those TV evangelists. Those guys see Satan under their beds."

Dalkin contemplates such calls when his phone whistles.  "Yeah-what?"

It’s Ronald M. Schvantz, the dataveillant.  Is Dalkin serious about locating the devil?


"I talked to Nuts-and-bolts about it," says Schvantz.


"My limey dick."

"A popsicle?"

"Cute," says Schvantz.  "Nuts-and-bolts worked on a case involving satanic cults, you know, devil worship?  He says his client was obsessed with eradicating Satanism."

"Is this a joke?"

"Limeys are a joke," says Schvantz.  "And the micks are even worse.  They're always at the pub, sloshing in the urinals, farting in the background when they yak data at me over their cell phones."

"Okay, let me have some names and numbers."

"That is not correct.  I need brazhort for my services."

"Fuck-nuts.  You want money for a referral?"

"That is correct."

Thursday, January 21, 2021



... in the wilds of Montecito...

Whatever the circumstances, life is good.


Painting: Van Stein



Chuckle, oink, barf.

These are the first thoughts to enter Jeff Dalkin's brain upon learning what a potential client wants him to find.

Dalkin says: "Fuck-nuts."  (It is involuntary; he suffers—some say enjoys—Tourette’s syndrome.)  

Then Dalkin agrees to take the job.  So what if it’s the nuttiest assignment he's ever been offered?  It pays a grand a day, expenses (first-class).   

And Dalkin's focus is nothing if not well defined:  Big bucks blow me.

It occurs to Dalkin that maybe he should know something more about this client. Sure, Arthur Toady is rich beyond belief—they all are or fuck 'em.  

But what compels Toady to underwrite this unusual quest?

At an open-air table outside Sambo's, the first and last of a politically incorrect coffee shop chain, Dalkin sips from a mug of grounds and fingers his phone.

"Speak!" commands a voice on the other end.

"I need a timber assessment on..."

"I'm finished doing timber assessments for you," snaps Ronald M. Schvantz, the dataveillant.

"Whattaya mean?" squawks Dalkin.

"You kidding?  My data sources are wise to you.  This is what, the fifth time you've called looking for freebies?"

"Hey, timber assessments were your idea."

"That's correct," says Schvantz.  "But when I tell you there's a load of timber on a gaffer you put up, you're supposed to buy a globe-scan.  But you?  You take my teaser and scram."

"Okay, okay.  What's a global cost now?"

"Between 2650 and 3300 smackers."

"Depending on what?"

"How much wood in the forest."

"So find out," says Dalkin.

"That is not correct,"

"How about a cursory globe-scan?"

"No such thing.  You want blood, go to the Red Cross, cos you're wasting my time."

"Owwww!  Holy fucking Christ!"

"Sorry.  A spiritual rebirth doesn't cut it."

"Don't sass me.  It's my tooth.  The coffee.  Damn, that hurts!"  Dalkin rubs his jaw, trying to soothe a bottom molar.  "Okay, okay.  Do Arthur Toady.  I'll pay."


"Yup."  Dalkin spells it.

"Do you have any statistical identifiers?"

"You want me to do your job for you?"

"Just give me something I can work with," says Schvantz. "Or I'm likely to find ten Toadys, God forbid.  An address, maybe.  Or just tell me what city."

"Santa Barbara, California.  A neighborhood called Hope Ranch.  And he's very rich—blow me."

"Of course."  Schvantz is already clacking away at his keyboard.  "Toady the toymaker?"

"Yeah, I guess."

"Lotta timber," says Schvantz.  "You're looking at the high end."


"Is that a yes?"

"How much is this guy worth?" Dalkin presses.

"A billion, at least.  Toady's Toys is no slouch."

"Anything about religious affiliation?"

"You're pushing it."  But Schvantz cannot resist an opportunity to show off.  "He's a mixed bag of buns."

"What is that supposed to mean?"

"He gives to all faiths."

"How do you know that?"

"A new data base:  charitable religious contributions."  Schvantz pauses. "We can also get his pharmacy prescriptions and supermarket buying habits.  You in?"

"Nah."  Dalkin already had what he needed.  "How about a globe-scan on Satan?"

"Sure," said Schvantz.  "Go to hell."

"I mean it..." But Dalkin is talking to an empty void.  He feels a pang of pain, whacks his jaw.  "Fuck-nuts."